Iron manager Russ Wilcox admitted to having defensive concerns after seeing his side slip to a 2-1 home defeat against Leyton Orient on Saturday.The hosts fell behind less than three minutes in after Scott Cuthbert headed Dean Cox’s corner past Bobby Olejnik, and, despite levelling through Matt Sparrow, were eventually consigned to defeat by Jobi McAnuff’s 51st minute winner.
United have now conceded 20 goals from their nine League One games player, after benefitting from centre-back pairing David Mirfin and Niall Canavan being near ever-presents last season as the comfort of regularity provided a firm base from which their promotion bid was built upon.
However, Mirfin was ruled out for a prolonged period of time through injury ahead of the current season getting underway, with his absence now being keenly felt by those of claret and blue persuasion.
While Wilcox moved swiftly by adding Miguel Llera to the squad, it remains difficult to replicate the success of the previous campaign defensively, as he told The Iron Player: “You try and get a partnership together that’s strong, like the one we had last season.
“To lose David Mirfin after two or three days of pre-season is showing now as a big loss. If you get a solid partnership, especially at centre-half, you get to know each other’s game.
“It was one of our main strengths last season, and you have to have that base, but it’s been taken away. We can’t do anything about that.
“All we can do is look forward, and we thought we’d sorted that issue by bringing Miles Addison in. He was finding his feet magnificently before he picks up the injury, so you have to readjust again.”
The loss of both Mirfin and Addison has left Wilcox with little alternative but to press ahead with the left-footed pairing of Canavan and Llera, as he admitted: “I think the partnership’s been a little bit hot and cold.
“Again I don’t want to put the blame on just two players in the team as it’s a collective thing. We all win together and lose together. It’s not just about two players, it’s about all of us stepping up to the plate and being better.
“It’s an area we need to keep looking at; the goals against table doesn’t look good at all and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in. We’re having to score two or three goals in every game to win, and that has to change.
“You look every year at the teams at the bottom end, and it’s always the goals against column. We can’t afford to ship goals like we are at the moment.”
United will be forced to shuffle their pack for the visit to Oldham next weekend however, with Llera’s fifth booking of the season ruling him out of the trip to Boundary Park.
That may mean the likes of Andrew Boyce or Callum Howe are given the chance to impress in central defence, while loan export Luke Waterfall could also be recalled from his spell at Macclesfield.
Wilcox urged whoever gets the nod to make the most of their opportunity, as he added: “The three are all really good players, but aren’t experienced at this level.
“None of them even have league experience, but sometimes you have to sink or swim. If I choose one of those three at Oldham they have to go out and show me they are capable of performing.”
See much more from Russ Wilcox, and others, on The Iron Player.